Lifebuoy ‘crucial’ to saving life, says surfer who jumped to river rescue

‘I couldn’t find a skiff so I realised it was time to go swimming,’ says father of two (40)

Daniel Mee has rescued people on four different occasions from the Shannon in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Daniel Mee has rescued people on four different occasions from the Shannon in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. Photograph: Brian Farrell

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A man involved in a dramatic river rescue in Carrick-on-Shannon has highlighted the importance of people not interfering with lifebuoys along waterways.

Daniel Mee recently arrived in Carrick to meet a friend for breakfast and when he was parking his car noticed a small crowd had gathered close to the Moon River pleasure cruiser, on which he works part-time.

The keen surfer and kayaker was told a young man was in difficulty in the water and that another man who had tried to rescue him had got into difficulty himself after developing cramps in the cold water and had been helped out.

After a quick search for a skiff which is normally close by, the 40-year-old Zimbabwe-born father of two ended up diving into the freezing water. “There are heaps of cruisers there and I thought I’d find a skiff on one of them but I couldn’t so I realised ‘okay it’s time to go swimming,” he recalled. “I stripped down to my boxer shorts and went in.”

When he reached the teenager he realised he had a lifebuoy thanks to the man who had developed cramps a short time earlier. “That was the crucial bit to be honest,” he said, praising the other man for his “selfless act”.

“I have often spoken to young people I have seen messing with the life rings there. They are so vital and if it hadn’t been there that day it could have cost a life.”

Daniel Mee with a lifebuoy in place at Carrick-on-Shannon. Photograph Brian Farrell
Daniel Mee with a lifebuoy in place at Carrick-on-Shannon. Photograph Brian Farrell

He said the young man told him he could not feel his legs and was having difficulty breathing. “I grabbed the cord on the life ring and got back to the gangway. By that time the police and ambulance were there and people helped to get him out.”

Mr Mee, who has lived in Leitrim since 2003, said he was “lucky” as he is a “water baby” who is often in the water in November and is also used to taking ice baths. He said working at weekends on the Moon River, he was also used to “man overboard drills” which was why he had searched for a small dingy before going into the water as a last resort.

He has now been involved in the rescue of four people from the Shannon.

Separate incidents

Almost 10 years ago he saved two women in separate incidents in this area. One had been sitting on steps when she slipped in and got carried by the current.

A few months later he was standing on the deck of the Moon River “when something in the water caught my eye”. He realised someone was being dragged by the current. The skipper turned the boat around but “I realised that she was not going to make it so I swam to her”.

By the time he got close to the gangway with the woman, he was exhausted. “But there were three young men there from Enniskillen who happened to be life guards so they helped with the rescue.”

In May 2019, Daniel who works in IT, was on board his own small cruiser in the Knockvicar area when he heard a cry for help and realised an older man who had been cleaning another boat while wearing waders – but not a life jacket – had slipped into the water. “His waders were filling up with water but that was a simple case of getting him back to the edge.”

He said he had seen this man back on the water “and wearing a life jacket”.

The teenager rescued earlier this month was suffering from hypothermia but Mr Mee had been told “he is doing okay”.